03 October, 2011

From international sports man to paralysis; all before the age of 21: the Matt Hampson story:

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            Matt Hampson is now known all over the country as the inspirational figure who has given hope to people going through a rough period in their lives, the guy who got injured but wouldn’t take it lying down. How did he become this iconic figure?  See his story at MattHampson.co.uk is the full story of how Matt has achieved and got to where he is today.  His book "Engage" - ghosted by Ireland's Paul Kimmage, can be purchased on the website.
            Six years ago, he was an emerging talent in the world of rugby, recognized by the respected as having the capability to go all the way. Matt Hampson had grown up in Rutland and was a typical boy – always dirty, always getting into trouble, always way too much energy for his own good. His mother Anne and father Phil were always there to support him, to help him on his way and always full of encouragement.             
            Matt attended King Edward 7th in Melton Mowbray and excelled in PE and in particular rugby. Enjoying the sport so much, he joined Syston Rugby club and was part of the team that achieved winning the Sanyo Cup national tournament at Twickenham, a team that also had a 5 season championship winning streak.
Matt Hampson before (right) and after his horific injury
            Tigers Academy soon took note of Matt and he was selected to join them at the Under 16 level. He then went to QE college in Leicester where he balanced college with training full time with the academy and quickly established himself as prop forward who was capable of holding his own in 1st team training - with the likes of British Lion Graham Rowntree, World Cup winner Julian White and England prop Darren Garforth at the club this was no mean feat.
            Off the pitch Hambo liked nothing more than relaxing with his mates, whether at the cinema or out on a Saturday night with the boys. Some things never change!  Matt was progressing nicely through the junior England levels notching up England U18 schools and England Under 19 caps. As the England U21 management were to announce the squad it was almost inevitable that he would make the grade. Make the grade he did and his performances impressed Nigel Redman and Jim Mallinder and lead to him being the number one prop in the team.
            Then came the moment that changed his life. “He (Matt Hampson) remembers the call and he remembers the shove and he remembers the scrum collapsing, just as it had many times before. He remembers going down and his feet being lifted off the ground and feeling suddenly unable to breathe as his friends piled on top of him.” (The Times March 12th 2006). Matt suffered a dislocation in his neck which had trapped his spinal cord. It has left him paralyzed from the neck down and more determined than ever from the neck up. It is Matt’s spirit and bravery that has earned him such recognition and has pulled together the rugby world who want to take care of one of their own.
            He was looked after by the wonderful team at Stoke Mandeville hospital who, after just over a year of care, ensured he was well enough to return home. Matt too has met some inspiring individuals on his journey back to normality such as Paul Tiana and Jonah Lomu. He returned home in June 2009 and is currently enjoying life in his re-renovated barn. Some of the monies raised from his website have gone into helping with the conversion so to all of you who have chosen to support Matt so far a very BIG thank you.
            Matt is currently taking on different roles as he tries to regain his independence. He is now writing a column for the Leicester Mercury’s Sporting Green, helps out with coaching at Oakham rugby club and he hopes to one day contribute heavily to spinal research.
             Without question, Matt is an incredible young man. He is an Inspiration and motivation to everyone who knows his story. It seems like nothing is too big a challenge for Hambo and with his determination and a little luck, the world really is still very much at his feet.
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